Today's D Brief: Ukraine oversight on the Hill; Kyiv wants German tanks; Estonia, Sweden donate weapons; USAF's JADC2 next steps; And a bit more.
Ukraine war oversight on Capitol Hill is growing. United States lawmakers have so far appropriated more than $113 billion in funding for Ukraine across 11 U.S. government departments and agencies, Defense Department Inspector General Robert Storch said in a new report (PDF) on Ukraine aid oversight published for members of the House and Senate on Wednesday.
More than half of that U.S. aid, or about $62.3 billion, is military-related, and administered through Defense Department personnel and operations. Another $46.1 billion is organized through the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The rest, about $5 billion, is facilitated via several different agencies including Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Justice, and others.
The new 42-page document is the first “joint strategic oversight plan” submitted to Congress by the Offices of Inspectors General for the Pentagon, the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The new report could be seen as a kind of outline or road map for lawmakers tasked with oversight and accountability; and the Republican chairs of both the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees praised the report’s release in their own statement Wednesday.
“Congress can’t only cut checks, we must also ensure U.S. aid is being spent transparently, effectively, and advances U.S. national security interests,” Reps. Michael McCaul of Texas and Mike Rogers from Alabama said, and noted that they welcome future inspectors general “findings and recommendations on how to enhance the oversight of these funds and how to replenish U.S. stockpiles in a timely manner.”
Because why not: Rogers and McCaul released a second, more combative statement on Ukraine on Wednesday as well, criticizing an alleged “current handwringing and hesitation by the Biden administration and some of our European allies in providing critical weapon systems to Ukraine,” saying that the purported delay “stinks of the weak policies of 2021.” (Unsurprisingly, the GOP lawmakers neglected to mention POTUS45’s impeachment-inducing efforts to delay arming Ukraine the year prior.) Some examples of alleged weak policies from the current White House include “not sanctioning Nord Stream 2 or providing U.S.-origin Stinger [missiles] before the full-scale invasion,” according to McCaul and Rogers.
Also: The two GOP chairmen say it’s now time for the U.S. and Germany to send Ukraine tanks—and for the U.S. to also send ATACMS, which are missiles with an almost 200-mile range, as well as “other long-range precision munitions.” The White House has so far been reluctant to send long-range weapons for fear Ukraine could use them to target Russian elements inside their own borders, risking possibly unnecessary escalation with nuclear-armed Moscow. The Pentagon even went so far as to modify its donated HIMARS weapons so they can’t fire into Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal, reporting in December.
The lawmakers also called out Berlin for not yet sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, which is a decision that’s fallen directly onto the lap of Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius. A formal decision on those Leopards could come in time for Friday’s Ukraine Contact Group meeting at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base. A bit more on that below. But back to the topic of growing oversight across the pond in Washington…
To date, “U.S. government oversight agencies have published 14 reports since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and reported findings and recommendations to improve internal controls, reduce costs, ensure safety, and improve operational efficiencies,” the three IGs said in their latest report Wednesday.
More than 60 “ongoing or planned projects” related to Ukraine aid are ongoing, which suggests we can expect more oversight reports in the coming months, not all of which may see the full light of day. A few of those include:
- Intelligence sharing with Ukrainian officials;
- Rebuilding U.S. weapon stockpiles;
- Inventorying the Defense Department’s prepositioned equipment across Europe;
- Contract auditing;
- Readiness reports for units sharing equipment with Ukraine; and about five dozen others. Details here.
Coverage continues below…
From Defense One
Kahl: U.S. Focused on ‘Next Phase’ of Ukraine Conflict // Patrick Tucker: A big aid package is expected this week, but it likely won’t contain long-sought, controversial items like ATACMS.
How Digital Twinning Is Helping Improve Submarine Communications // Tracy Gregorio: Lessons from the challenging world of undersea operations ought to be applied across the military.
Army May Consider Buying Weapons Parts in Advance to Avoid Delays // Caitlin M. Kenney: The service should look at weapons buying “in a nonlinear way,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said
Air Force 'Needs to Do More' to Address JADC2 Concerns, GAO Says // Edward Graham: The service has made insufficient progress since a 2020 review of its portion of the military-wide tactical network, the Government Accountability Office wrote.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1915, German zeppelins were swept by winds away from their original targets and bombed the British towns of Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn, killing at least four people.
Berlin says it won’t greenlight any Leopard 2 tank transfers until the U.S. sends its own Abrams tanks to Ukraine, German officials told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
And the U.S. is “not there yet” when it comes to sending Abrams tanks, and that’s partly because those systems take a lot of effort and experience to maintain, Pentagon Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told reporters Wednesday. “The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment,” he said. “It's expensive. It's hard to train on…I think it's about three gallons to the mile” in terms of fuel efficiency.
Kahl said Ukraine still needs air defense systems most of all right now. “Clearly, the Russians are hoping that through the mix of their cruise missile strikes, rejiggering their air defense systems as surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, and the use of Iranian drones, they're clearly trying to turn the lights out across Ukraine,” said Kahl, who recently returned from a trip to Ukraine. “So Ukrainians know that. We know that, and as a consequence, we're committed to keeping, making sure that the Ukrainians’ [air defenses] remain viable,” he said. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has a bit more, here.
New: Ukraine’s military and diplomatic chiefs have a message for tank fence-sitters in Europe and among the NATO alliance: Send the damn tanks already. “We are addressing our appeal to the states that have Leopard 2 tanks in service, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey,” Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote in a joint statement Thursday. “We appeal to all these and other countries possessing appropriate capabilities to join the initiative on establishment of an international tank coalition in support of Ukraine and make their practical contributions to this cause,” Kuleba and Reznikov said.
“We guarantee that we will use these weapons responsibly and exclusively for the purposes of protecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders,” they wrote, and linked their request to “the triumph of universal human values of our civilization—the values of peace, freedom, and democracy.”
Sweden just made their Archer artillery system donation official, and added at least 50 CV-90 Infantry Fighting Vehicles, NLAW anti-tank rockets, and more for Stockholm’s 10th aid package to Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy thanked the Swedes for their latest package of aid in his own tweet Thursday morning.
Outsized donor: Estonia is sending more howitzers, grenade launchers, and ammo to Ukraine in a package that “takes our total military aid to Ukraine over 1% of our GDP,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Thursday. (The tiny Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia lead the way in terms of GDP-relative donations to Ukraine.)
“We all want the war to end, but Russia has sent a clear signal that it wants to continue its war of aggression,” Kallas tweeted, and warned that, “Despite losses in manpower and technology, Russia has still thousands of tanks, armored vehicles and artillery in its warehouses ready to dash into war.”
Developing: The British say Russia may be about to send their newest tanks into Ukraine, the T-14 Armata main battle tank. That would seem to be because “In late December 2022, [satellite] imagery showed T-14s on a training area in southern Russia,” and that “site has been associated with pre-deployment activity for the Ukraine operation,” the British military said Thursday on Twitter, with supporting imagery.
“Any T-14 deployment is likely to be a high-risk decision for Russia,” say the Brits. “Eleven years in development, the programme has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems.” (You may recall the tank made an awkward early appearance when it broke during parade rehearsals in Moscow back in 2015.) “If Russia deploys T-14, it will likely primarily be for propaganda purposes,” the British said Thursday. “Production is probably only in the low tens, while commanders are unlikely to trust the vehicle in combat.” The tank’s logistics chain is also likely to be its own challenge as well. Read more, here.
The U.S. could soon send Stryker combat vehicles to Ukraine, CNN and Politico reported this week, citing defense officials. More Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles could be coming as part of that new package of aid estimated at about $2.5 billion.
- “Bulgaria to the rescue: How the EU’s poorest country secretly saved Ukraine,” Politico Europe reported Wednesday;
- “Russian Spy or Ukrainian Hero? The Strange Death of Denys Kiryeyev,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday;
- Arizona Democratic Rep. “Ruben Gallego on defense priorities, concerns in the new Congress,” via Military Times, reporting Tuesday from Capitol Hill;
- And see also “America Set to Hit Its Borrowing Limit Today, Raising Economic Fears,” via the New York Times, reporting Thursday.
Apropos of nothing: If you or someone you know has misplaced a bazooka while flying, then you’ll understand why TSA Southwest was concerned this week after its officers found a Carl Gustav weapon in someone’s checked luggage. Check out the weapon and what to do if you plan to travel with something similar, here.
Lastly today: U.S. troops in South Korea used a jamming system to stop a drone from entering their military installation, which houses a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday. The drone was flying near Forward Operating Site Carroll, about 130 miles south of Seoul, around 1 p.m. Tuesday when it was spotted by a U.S. soldier. Military officials don’t think it came from North Korea, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
BTW: The Pentagon has asked U.S. Forces Korea to send some of its equipment to Ukraine, Reuters reported Thursday. The move will have “zero impact” on U.S. operations in Korea “and our ability to execute on our ironclad commitment to the defense of our ally, the Republic of Korea,” a spokesman for U.S Forces Korea told Reuters in a statement.
From the region:
- “Biden administration imposes China chip curbs on Macau,” Reuters reported Tuesday;
- “University of Texas at Austin bans TikTok from its networks,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday;
- See also “Why some major Texas universities are blocking TikTok access on internet networks,” via ABC News.